Linda Bathe, from the steering committee, reported on the progress of the Stratford-Perth Residential Hospice initiative. She was accompanied by Laurie Brown, who gave her perspective as a family member who has used hospice services. The meeting was held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 27 at Central United Church Hall.
Katharine Gunnel Gavin introduced Linda Bathe and Laurie Brown. A local optometrist, Linda has been active in the Ontario College of Optometrists, Gallery Stratford and the Rotary Club of Stratford, which has spearheaded the hospice initiative.
Laurie is former clinical coordinator for medical imaging at Stratford General Hospital and is currently a volunteer providing palliative care in the community. Personal experiences with family members at the end of life, motivated her participation in this project.
Progress on the Stratford Perth Residential Hospice. Linda’s conversations with her patients and a colleague motivated her to propose the idea for a local hospice to the Rotary Club of Stratford. It was timely since the Stratford General Hospital (SGH) had recently closed its palliative care beds. Rotary committed $5000 and the first community meeting in late 2013 drew an overflow crowd, where more than 100 people volunteered to help. Individuals with varied backgrounds formed the steering committee that developed high level guiding principles: the hospice would be a home-like setting for people with end-stage illness, providing emotional, physical, social and spiritual support for the dying and their loved-ones. A hospice complements existing services ( the person’s primary care physician continues to care for them). Those who chose to die at home may also access hospice services. In Perth County there are 12,415 people over 65, over 90% will not die suddenly but require some form of chronic care. Many can’t or don’t wish to die at home, but hospitals are designed for acute care and the cost of a hospital bed is double that of a hospice bed. Some local patients go to Sakura House in Woodstock or hospices in other centers, but cannot then be treated by their own physicians and family must travel to be with them. A hospice of 10 beds will cost $150,000/bed/year ($1.5 million). To decrease costs, it is planned to partner with like-minded service agencies, to co-locate if possible and to use volunteers for support. The province may cover up to 80% of the operating cost, but provides no capital funds. Six million dollars are needed, including a sustainability fund of $1.2 million. For other hospices this has been raised equally from memorial donations, fundraisers and gifts. Stratford Rotary Club has pledged another $40,000; other community groups and several individuals have already contributed. The City of Stratford designated $1.5 million and the United Way is providing in-kind assistance. Application is in play for support from the Local Health Integration Network LHIN. If successful the hospice could be open by 2017. Three strong partner organizations have decided to join in the initiative (public announcement pending), a formal organizational structure is in development, including incorporation and charitable status. The location will be finalized shortly. Fundraising will kick off with the “Hike for Hospice”, the first Sunday in May. CFUW can help by providing a letter of support and volunteering – go to Facebook or contact Linda.
Laurie Brown spoke about the death of her father in 1999 from emphysema. Her mother was unable to care for him at home and no hospital bed was available, so he passed away in a crowded nursing home with no privacy. Her mother died from cancer in 2002 at SGH. Laurie and her daughters slept on cots in her room. There were no washroom facilities for family or other amenities. The care her mother received was wonderful, but it was still in an institutional setting. Though the family was present, they were not consulted for treatment decisions. In 2013 her husband succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nurses and doctors who treated him in London and Stratford hospitals were wonderful. He was in London when it became clear that the end was near and no beds were available for transfer back to SGH. His children and grandchildren travelled to London to say their goodbyes in the sterile atmosphere of his hospital room. Laurie is currently a volunteer working with local Home Care Palliative Teams through the South West Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). Family Services also provides a similar service. Budgets are tight for these agencies. The hope is to coordinate their activities with the new hospice, not only for fiscal expediency, but also to give clients continuity of care to the end of life. There is no cost to patients for hospice care.
The Ministry of Health uses mathematical models to calculate the funding for a LHIN hospice,that takes into account demographics, including the number of deaths in the service area from various causes. Ours would be a ten bed facility, built new, as this is more cost effective than retrofit. Similar criteria are used to determine operating costs. An average stay is 8 days, range 12 hours to 3 months. One partner agency has agreed to provide administrative services. Pat Reavy thanked Linda and Laurie for their work to date and encouraged members to become active in support in this important project that addresses a critical need in our community.